Eye On Olympia

Budget II: WSU's lab is back...

The biggest local item in Gov. Gregoire's budget plan is $63 million for a new life sciences research building in Pullman.

This is by far the largest item in the governor's construction budget for this year. And it's an easy one, since WSU -- which tried unsuccesfully to win legislative approval for the same building last year -- is offering to pay for it.

How: WSU wants state permission to tap some of the interest from its $350 million Permanent Fund. This is money from timber sales, microwave tower leases, rangeland leases, etc. from the university's roughly 152,000 acres. The interest is periodically drawn off, usually for things like minor repairs and maintenance.

But WSU, which badly wants the lab complex, is offering to use some of that money to pay for construction bonds to build the center.

"It's kind of an elegant solution, I think," says WSU's Larry Ganders.

Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, gives the building good odds this year.

"I think it's very likely to survive," he said.

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